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Arsenal beats Hull 2-1 to reach FA Cup semifinals

WILLIAM Gallas' disputed goal five minutes from time lifted Arsenal past Hull 2-1 and into the FA Cup semifinals yesterday.

Arsenal will meet Chelsea in a semifinal on April 18, the first time the Gunners will play at the rebuilt Wembley.

Hull stunned Arsenal at Emirates Stadium in the 13th minute when defender Andy Dawson's lofted pass found Nick Barmby in the area and his shot deflected off Arsenal defender Johan Djourou and looped in over goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski.

The equalizer didn't arrive until the 75th, after a pass by Nicklas Bendtner in front of goal was deflected into the path of Andrei Arshavin who set up Robin van Persie for an easy tap-in.

Then Gallas, who was stripped of the captaincy earlier in the season for criticizing his teammates, scored the winner.

Hull goalkeeper Boaz Myhill came off his line to punch a long ball clear but it came off Djourou and Gallas won a duel with Dawson to head the ball into an empty net. But Gallas appeared to be in an offside position, according to television replays.

A furious Hull manager Phil Brown blamed referee Mike Riley and his linesman for the loss.

"You can talk all about Arsenal's passing as much as you want, but coming in at halftime I felt as if we deserved to be in front," Brown said. "There was no excuse for the first goal, it was a mistake by us. No excuse for the second goal, it was definitely a mistake by the officials. That's why we're out of the FA Cup. Ask Mr. Riley how much that's going to cost Hull City. I don't think he'd understand, I don't think he'd care."

Brown said he could not use the word "cheat," but thanked journalists for asking a question about whether he felt that way.

"You used the word. I can't use that word I'm afraid, but that is the case," Brown said. "I didn't mention the word 'cheat.' You did."

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger denied that Gallas was offside.

"The ball was deflected by the fist of the goalkeeper, consequently the ball comes from an opponent and it's a normal goal," Wenger said. It hit "Djourou first, the goalkeeper after, and then it was a foul on Gallas. Penalty. In fact, we should have got two goals."

Brown also accused injured Arsenal captain Cesc Fabregas of spitting at the feet of Hull's assistant manager after the match in the tunnel. Wenger said he didn't see the incident.

The FA Cup win in 2005 over Manchester United was Arsenal's last trophy and Wenger has been under increasing pressure from fans to win silverware this season.

Many believe the FA Cup represents Arsenal's best chance, because the team has struggled in the Premier League and narrowly advanced to the Champions League quarterfinals in a penalty shootout against AS Roma last week.

Arsenal has lifted the FA Cup 10 times, only one less than the record held by United, which faces Everton in the other semifinal on April 19.

Hull's goal was only the second conceded by Arsenal in the FA Cup this season - the other was in the Gunners' 3-1 victory over Plymouth on Jan. 3. The Gunners went on to beat Cardiff 4-0 and Burnley 3-0 to set up the quarterfinal against Hull.

Hull continued to threaten throughout the first half and the scoreline could have easily grown in its favor. Gallas was cautioned for a tackle on Hull striker Peter Halmosi in the 23rd, setting up a free kick that midfielder Geovanni nearly converted with a curving shot that was tipped out by Fabianski for a corner.

A minute later, Barmby was unmarked and his shot found the back of the net, but his effort was canceled for being offside.

Arsenal had several chances to equalize in the first half, mainly through Arshavin. In the 31st, the Russian playmaker's shot was palmed away by Myhill. Ten minutes later, Arshavin was alone in front of goal, but Hull defender Samuel Ricketts lunged in just in time to block his shot. In stoppage time, Arshavin blasted the ball across the face of the goal but it swerved just wide.

Arsenal came out stronger in the second half and dominated possession in the opening stages. Arsenal's command nearly paid off on several occasions but the Gunners could manage only a few close misses as the half wore on. The referee cautioned Myhill in the second half for time wasting.

"Arsene Wenger got my goalkeeper booked," Brown said. "You call that good management? He was complaining about time-wasting ... Our game plan was working until our goalkeeper got booked. Our game plan wasn't to time-waste."

Van Persie's free kick was on target but Myhill was able to push the ball out for a corner. Two minutes later, the Dutch international's header hit the crossbar off a corner.

Hull was very close to repeating another shock victory over Arsenal this season. Geovanni and Daniel Cousin scored in Hull's 2-1 win over Arsenal in the English Premier League on Sept. 27 - only the second time the Gunners had been beaten at Emirates Stadium since it opened in 2006.

Brown can now focus on avoiding relegation in the Premier League.


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